How to start a family tree on ancestry

Tips and Tricks for Beginners Tips and Tricks for Beginners

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Written by David Fryxell, unless otherwise noted

When you first delve into, the world’s largest subscription collection of genealogy databases, it can be a bit mind-boggling. After all, encompasses some 31,000 collections with more than 20 billion historical records. Subscribers can access all available US census records, from 1790 through the 1950 census, along with many Canadian, English and Welsh enumerations.

You’ll find military records including collections of soldiers from the Revolutionary War, Civil War and both world wars. Vital records cover many US states, Canada and the United Kingdom, and immigration records range from passenger lists for most American ports to border-crossing files. Plus, you’ll find more than 20,000 digitized family and local history books, along with city directories and yearbooks and scanned and searchable newspapers dating back to the 18th century.

To help jump-start your research on the site, here are our best tips (not all of which even require paying for a subscription). As you work your way through these ideas, you’ll uncover even more strategies that can help you branch out and document your family tree.

1. Explore what’s available for free.

Even though the core of is its treasure trove of subscriber-only databases, the site also offers a surprising number of free data collections. If you’re still debating whether to subscribe to, trying out its free collections is a good way to get a feel for the site and how it works.

You can view all free records collections on from a single page. You can even search all these collections at once.

Many of these collections, it’s true, require a subscription to view full results or the scanned image of the original record. That’s the case with most US census collections, although you can view the 1880 and 1940 enumerations in their entirety for free; you just need to register and create a free account.

Yet even those “free” collections in which the complete records are hidden behind a pay wall can provide valuable information. Searching the 1881 English census, for example, will reveal not only whether an ancestor is listed, but also the person’s year and city of birth as well as county of residence in 1881.

2. Create or upload your family tree.

There’s no charge to create and share your own family tree files on You’ll get the most out of this experience, though, by subscribing. Your subscription will allow you to view data matches as well as other subscribers’ trees that overlap with yours. hosts some 100 million family trees, containing 13 billion profiles of ancestors, plus more than 330 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories attached to those trees.

To begin, select the Trees link on the home page then select “Create & Manage Trees” from the dropdown menu. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Create a new tree”; you’ll see a rudimentary pedigree chart where you can type in your data. Alternatively you can select “Upload a GEDCOM file”, which lets you share a GEDCOM (the universal file format for family trees) you’ve exported from your genealogy software. You can also upload “zipped” GEDCOM and image files (GEDZ). Just browse to the file on your computer, select and upload it, and will interpret the file and create your online tree.

3. Follow your hints.

Once you’ve created or uploaded one or more family trees, links to them appear in the Trees drop-down menu whenever you sign in to Click on one of your trees, and you’ll see a typical lines-and-boxes view, with each ancestor’s name and relevant dates. You may see a leaf icon in the corner of an ancestor’s box; this indicates that Ancestry. com has a “hint” for you—data it’s automatically found that may match that ancestor. (A box at the top of the page shows how many hints await your attention.)

To explore these hints, click one of your ancestors bearing a leaf icon. In a summary window, you’ll see how many hints are available to review (“8 Ancestry hints”). Click this link for a list of the data matches has identified.

You can click on each data source to view that record, or select Review to jump to a comparison between what has found and what’s in your tree. Determine if the hints is a good match for your tree. If the data obviously doesn’t apply to your ancestor, select Ignore to dismiss it. Check or uncheck these found facts, then pick Save to Your Tree to import the info you’ve checked.

4. Perform a global search.

Because’s wealth of data can be overwhelming, sometimes the best way to explore its collections is just to dive in and see everything it provides on a given ancestor. You can do this from the home page, where blanks invite you to fill in a first and last name, place an ancestor might have lived, and estimated birth year.

If you know a little more about an ancestor, click “Show more options.” This expands the search form to include other life events and family members, plus a drop-down for gender and blanks for race and keyword. you can also prioritize or restrict your search by collection (such as English or Jewish) or select only certain types of records.

What might you try as a keyword? Consider groups your ancestor might have belonged to, such as Flying Tigers, Elks or Lutheran, as well as occupations and even place names that doesn’t recognize and automatically populate.

This more-advanced search form also offers the option to search just for exact matches. Use this checkbox with caution, however; you can always choose to narrow your search once you see the results, using the Edit Search button or r hot key.

5. Search by category.

Despite the power of’s global search, sometimes you get better results by searching a single category—zooming in on your ancestor’s military or passenger arrival records, for example. To search a single category, select it from the drop-down list under Search. For categories not shown there, such as Schools, Directories & Church Histories, pick Search All Collections, then select the category (or subcategory) from the list on the right side of the main search page.

Another reason to search by category is that these category-search pages present different options. The Immigration & Travel search page, for example, lets you specify an ancestor’s arrival and departure dates and place of origin—options not readily available on the main search page. (You can, however, add arrival and departure there as life events.) The Military search page has a date and location search box set specifically for military service.

6. Explore others’ family trees, but focus on sources.

The real benefit of sharing your family tree on is hoping others tracing your family will do likewise. Family trees are included in the site’s global search. But you can focus on them by selecting Public Member Trees under Search. Results show the basics about an ancestor from each tree. Here, you’ll see how many sources and attachments accompany the data.

While unsourced info in others’ family trees can provide clues for your own research, focus on those with sources. Look particularly in the results list for those that not only have sources (which may be just somebody else’s unverified family tree) but that show “attached records.” These can be a research gold mine—everything from transcribed wills to pages from family histories. You may even find photos, indicated by a little camera icon.

You can also search just for Public Member Stories submitted along with family trees.

7. Add notes to records you find on

You might find errors in the site’s index, where the transcriber who read the name in a historical record misinterpreted what the record said. Or the census taker or county clerk might have garbled your relative’s name on the original record. Or maybe the record shows Great-grandpa’s given name, and you know the nickname he more commonly used.

On the record summary page, you can click the Leave a Comment button to leave a general comment with more information on the record. Others will be able to see your user name as the person who left a comment, potentially putting you in touch with more relatives.

8. Connect with cousins.

What if you find someone researching your family, and you want to connect to share information? Toward the top of each family tree page is a profile icon. Click this to view more about the owner of the tree. Depending on the person’s settings, you may be able to send an email via by clicking Message. You also can read about the person’s research interests.

9. Opt out of DNA matches if you want to.

While considers the ability to find possible DNA matches to be one of their most beneficial services, they respect the critical importance of privacy and the ability for members to control their own data. While many of their 6 million members love having discovering possible DNA matches and family members, this ability makes controlling your own data incredibly simple.

By accessing your DNA Settings page and adjusting your DNA Match List setting to ‘no’, you can ensure that no one will see you in their list of possible matches. If existing members wish to continue seeing their matches, and continue having their information shared on match lists, you need to make no changes, as the automatic setting on your account will be ‘yes’.

Ashlee Peck

10. Understand you can inherit different DNA than your siblings.

You inherit 50% of your DNA from each of your parents, and so do your siblings, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same 50%. The mix that gets passed from your grandparents down through your parents can vary with each child. That means you might have different ethnicity estimates and matches in some cases.

Vanessa Wieland

11. Know your ethnicity estimates can change

There’s a reason they use the word “estimates” to describe what your ethnic makeup is. As more people test, they’re able to refine the information. Ethnicity is based on a sample group of people whose ancestors came from the same area. The science behind this aspect of testing is continually evolving, so they continue to tweak your results as the sample size grows.

Vanessa Wieland

12. Look for old photos of family and the places they lived.

Try databases including US School Yearbooks, Public Member Photos and Scanned Documents, and Historical Postcards (separate databases are named for 10 countries or regions, including the US, Germany and Austria, Canada, Italy and others). Find more with a card catalog search on the keyword pictures.

Diane Haddad

Although other subscription sites now rival’s collection of historical newspapers, it’s still a useful tool for beating your brick walls and learning about your ancestors’ lives. ( has a bigger subscription-based site,, that’s available to Ancestry. com subscribers at a discounted rate.) To search only old newspapers, go to Search All Collections and scroll down to Newspapers under Stories & Publications on the right.

Here it’s often useful to filter your search by location, using the links at the upper right. Click on USA, for instance, and then select a state and possibly a city in the left-hand links on the page that appears. You also can filter by dates.

14. Scour message boards.

An often-overlooked resource is’s vast array of message boards. This part of the site, “the world’s largest online genealogy community,” has more than 25 million posts on 198,000 boards. This link is located under Help, or you can go straight to These message boards are identical to those on the long-standing free RootsWeb site, which is why they represent such a rich resource. Why tackle a genealogy challenge from scratch when somebody may have already solved it here?

At the very least, it’s worth checking the boards for all the surnames you’re researching, as well as the ancestral places (typically by county) where your family has lived. You can also explore specialized boards devoted to everything from the Crimean War to Australian cemeteries. If you post, use a subject line such as Harrison family in Ripley County, Ind. That way, other researchers surfing the boards will quickly know whether your most might pertain to their families.

15. Edit your tree on the go with the Ancestry app.

Use’s free mobile app for Apple or Android to create and edit your Member Tree on your phone or tablet. You can add records you find in, as well as records uploaded from your device. Changes will automatically sync to all your devices.

Rick Crume

16. Save your finds.

Once you’ve found facts about your ancestors on, what should you do with these records? provides several built-in ways to save “hits” related to your family history. First, of course, you can print the records you find—always a good backup. It’s a good idea to print both the image of the original record, if available, and Ancestry. com’s transcription of it, then staple these together.

It’s also easy to save your finds digitally. When viewing a record, click the Save button in the upper right corner. This brings up a box where you can choose to attach the record to someone in your tree or save it to your computer’s hard drive. An advantage of attaching a record to an tree is that you can then view it using Ancestry’s free smartphone and tablet apps.

17. Attach long records as PDFs.

When saving a record to your Member Tree, Family Tree Maker software or computer, you can save only one page at a time. This takes awhile for large files, such as a long Revolutionary War pension file or a book chapter, and it creates a new attached record for each page. HeritageQuest Online, available through many libraries, used to let you download multiple pages from a book or a whole pension file at once. But now that “powers” HeritageQuest Online, you can save only one page at a time. To speed things up, you could attach select pages from a long record, or use software like Adobe Acrobat to combine the pages into a single PDF.

Rick Crume

18. Don’t lose access to your records.

Anyone can create an Ancestry Member Tree for free, and paying subscribers can attach records to people in their trees. But if you let your subscription lapse, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise: You’ll be able to access your tree and any records uploaded from your computer, but not the records attached from To avoid this, when you attach a record to someone in your Member Tree, save a copy to your computer with a descriptive file name so you can easily find it. You also could use Family Tree Maker software to keep a copy of your family tree on your computer that syncs with your online tree.

All these options are easy to use, and that’s a good thing. Once you’ve tried all these suggestions for using, you’ll have plenty of family history finds to save.

Use names and places found on as a springboard for searches on sites such as Google, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and Findmypast. Check for city directories, digitized books and newspapers, and other types of genealogy records on other sites as well.

A version of this article appeared in the March/April 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. Search Tips: Your Ultimate Guide

Searching on genealogy mega-site can feel overwhelming. Here are tips and other free resources to help you get the most out of your Ancestry searches.



Family Tree Editors

How to Create a New Tree on Ancestry – Data Mining DNA

It seems like it should be obvious how to create a new tree on Ancestry.

So you may be scratching your head and looking in vain for a big shiny “create tree” button. But it’s oddly hidden away from the main menus. This article will show you exactly how you create an Ancestry tree.

Table of Contents

How To Start A Family Tree On Ancestry

This is how to start a new tree on Ancestry:

  1. Click the Trees menu in the top bar.
  2. Choose “Create and Manage Trees”.
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
  4. Click the link to “create a new tree”.
  5. Follow the wizard to add at least two people to your tree.

The Ancestry New Tree Wizard

The “create a new tree” link launches a wizard that guides you through starting an Ancestry tree with at least two persons.

Once you’ve entered the first person, you may wonder how you should save this new tree. Well, you can’t save it until you’ve added a second person e.g. a parent or spouse. Then, the Ancestry wizard opens a dialog box that allows to name and save the new tree.

There is another important option to consider here, the privacy settings. But let’s address the name first.

(If you’d like to see all this in action, the video at the end of this post walks through the process and the options available. If you prefer a textual approach, read on).

A Video Walkthrough of Creating An Ancestry Tree

Create Your Ancestry Tree With A Descriptive Name

By default, Ancestry will name your tree using the surname of the first person you entered, the “home person”. So, it will be “[surname] family tree”. That’s not a bad choice although you may want to change it at this point. You can simply overwrite the box with your preferred name.

I advise not to use generic names such as “my tree”, as you will often end up creating more than one tree. If you’re just starting your genealogy journey with Ancestry, this may seem unusual. But an Ancestry tree is a powerful research tool, and you may want a temporary private tree as you chase down a speculative branch.

Take a look at this excerpt from my tree management page. See how several start with “RESEARCH – “, followed by a family name?

These are trees for which I haven’t verified all the evidence I need to be on sure ground. I don’t want to lead others astray if later decide the relationships are incorrect. So I set the tree to be private when I saved it.

Think About Privacy Settings When Creating Ancestry Trees

Remember that your new tree will be public unless you actively choose to set it to private here. The public option is set to true by default in the save dialog box. The setting is directly below the name of the tree.

Often you will want your tree to be public so you don’t need to take any further action before clicking the save button. However, be sure to uncheck the ticked box if you want a private tree.

A New Private Ancestry Tree is Searchable

Even if you set the tree to private, your tree will eventually enter the Ancestry search index unless you take further steps to stop this. What this means is that the basic details of deceased individuals may come up in the searches of other Ancestry members. Your tree will be shown to them as private, so they won’t be able to explore inside. However, they will be able to send you a message through the Ancestry system with their inquiries.

I usually set my research or experimental trees to be unsearchable. This can’t be done within the save dialog box. Instead, once you’ve saved your tree you must find the option to make the tree unsearchable. This is available on the privacy settings of the tree.

To learn more about indexed and unindexed trees, read our article on the essential Ancestry tree. You may also want to take a look at our book on building your Ancestry tree.

How to Save Your Family tree on Ancestry

When you’re out of the new tree wizard, each action you take is usually saved instantly. There’s no “save” button, your actions have immediate affect. Bear in mind that there’s also no “undo” button!

You may experience occasional glitches where the screen hangs, or it seems that your change hasn’t taken effect. This is usually down to internet connection issues.

How to Find Your New tree on Ancestry

If you’re sitting down to renew your Ancestry research, it’s very easy to find a tree that you’ve been recently working.

The “Trees” menu lists the most trees with most recent activity. And if you only have one tree, it’ll be there in the drop down items.

Can You Create More Than One Tree

You are not limited to one family tree on One account can create and manage hundreds of family trees.

How Many Trees Can You Create On

There is no limit to the number of trees that you can create on Ancestry. There support documentation has no upper threshold for Ancestry members. You can create as many as you need for your genealogy research.

At the time of writing this, there were 12 million family trees on Ancestry. So, you’re probably not going to stretch them in a big way.

What’s the Biggest Tree You Could Build on Ancestry.


According to Ancestry itself, the biggest tree on has 260,000 entries.

There’s a challenge for you!

Looking For An E-Book on Building Your Ancestry tree?

Our e-book on building your family tree with is available on Amazon with a budget price!

Check Out Our Video Walkthroughs

If you would like to watch video tutorials that walk through using Ancestry features step-by-step, browse through the DataMiningDNA YouTube channel.

Interested In New Articles and Tutorials On Ancestry?

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How to make a genealogical tree of family and clan

How to preserve the memory of the past of your family? Collecting old photographs and yellowed letters in boxes on the mezzanine is not the best option: in a couple of generations, your descendants will hardly guess who these smiling people from black and white cards are. How about translating that memory into something meaningful, like a real family tree? Its creation will be an exciting quest for the whole family, and in the process of immersing yourself in your own story, incredible discoveries can await you all.

Building a family tree is not easy, but interesting. To do this, you will have to conduct a comprehensive study, collect all the data and photographs, and then try to create a family tree with your own hands from all this.

In our article you will find not only tips for finding information about ancestors, but also various tree design options. We have also prepared for you two templates for filling in the family tree - for children and for adults.

How to make a family tree with your own hands

Where to start

Before you begin, you must determine for yourself why all this is needed. Are you in the mood for deep exploration, or is your goal just to share stories about your parents and grandparents with your children?

A well-defined goal will help you achieve the final result faster.

Think of a plan, break it down into small steps so you can easily track progress. And this will add to your motivation not to give up halfway through - believe me, you will need it.

Finding information about relatives

Once you've decided how far you want to go, the most interesting step is gathering information about relatives and distant ancestors. You will surely learn many funny and touching stories and find some distant relatives living on the other side of the world. Or maybe even reveal a family secret - who knows? To find as much information as possible and understand how to make a family tree of a family, use the following methods:

  • Questioning relatives

Start your search by interviewing your next of kin. Organize family tea gatherings with grandparents - they will be happy to share valuable memories. Arrange a video conference with those who live in other cities and countries, or just write to them on social networks.

  • Family archive analysis

Carefully study all documents, letters and diaries that have been preserved in your family. In birth, marriage and death certificates, passports, employment records and diplomas, you will find answers to key questions that are important for the pedigree. These records will help restore information that loved ones could not remember. Look through old photographs: perhaps the grandmother forgot to tell about her second cousin. Already at this stage, you can choose photo cards for your family tree.

  • Internet searches

Browse various genealogy websites and related resources for historical information. For example, the website "Feat of the People" provides open access to archival documents about the exploits and awards of all soldiers of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

Register on several thematic forums. For example, on the All-Russian Genealogical Tree forum, it is possible to search for a specific person by last name, regions and countries.

Try to find distant relatives of your generation on Odnoklassniki or VKontakte. But do not forget that in a correct genealogical research, any information must be confirmed by archival certificates.

  • Collection of information in registry offices and archives

If you are looking for information about marriage, dates of birth or death, please contact the registry office. If a relative has something to do with the army - for example, is a veteran of the Second World War - make a request to the military registration and enlistment office at the place of residence, service or conscription. But keep in mind: in order to obtain documents of deceased relatives, you must prove your relationship with them, providing, among other things, your birth certificate.

Don't hope for a quick result when searching for genealogy in archives. The process can take months or even years. But the information you find can greatly advance your research.

  • Contact the experts

If you do not want to spend time building a family tree, contact the professionals. Archives staff, designers, and specialty companies will help you find the information you need and create a family tree. In addition, with their help you can create a family tree book, a film presentation and even a family coat of arms.

What are the types of a family tree

There are several methods for compiling a tree.

  • Descending tree

The family scheme is formed from an ancestor to descendants. This design method allows you to visually trace the history of the family from distant times to the present day.

  • Pedigree

Compiled from a person to his ancestors. Such a structure will be especially convenient for those who have not yet completed the search for information and are consistently moving from the known to the unknown.

  • Round table

It is built in a circle, in the center of which one of the children is placed. The second, outer, circle is divided in half and the data of the mother and father are recorded in it. In the third circle, cut into four parts, grandparents are indicated. Then a fourth circle is added, which is divided into eight parts, and so on. This type of tree is quite rare. But this scheme is the most compact.

How to arrange a family tree

  • Family tree on computer

Programs for creating a family tree will help you save time and get a guaranteed result. Use the MyHeritage online service or GenoPro, Family Tree Builder or Tree of Life software. Choose a template, enter your pedigree data and enjoy the result.

You can also find or draw an empty tree yourself in a graphics editor.

  • DIY family tree

Get creative with your family tree results. We have selected a few examples for you to inspire.

Family box

For each ancestor, a box is wound up or one cell is allocated, in which documents, photos, objects are placed. By opening such a box, you can touch the past and find out what kind of person your ancestor was.

Generic tree from local materials

This design option is perfect for a kindergarten or school project.

Family tree in album

Decorative stand with photo frames

How to work with the family tree template

We have prepared two templates that both children and adults will love.

Open Tree Template for Adults

Open Tree Template for Children

Templates can be used both electronically and in print.

  • Print out a blank template and include drawings or photos of yourself and your ancestors.
  • Use a photo editor and paste the scanned images into a template. Print the result.

Filling out a template in Picverse Photo Editor

In Picverse Photo Editor you can not only edit pictures and insert them into a template, but also restore old photos.

Check out our sample of filling out the template - it will be easier for you to figure out how to draw up a family tree correctly.

1) Launch Picverse Photo Editor.

2) If you want to restore photo that has lost its appearance due to old age, open the image in the program. In the tab Correction in the panel on the right, select the option Manual . Open block Smart Restoration . If you want to convert black and white photos to color, activate the switch Make color . Press button Restore . Photos will be automatically restored.

3) In order to adjust colors and sharpness , in the same tab Correction open the required block and change the necessary parameters. Save the result.

4) To add a picture to template , click File –> Open and select the downloaded template to fill. Then go to tab Insert picture and open the photo you want to insert. To resize the inserted photo, drag the corners of the dotted frame. Rotate the photo using the arrow button. If you are happy with the result, press Apply .

5) Once you have inserted all the images, click File –> Save .

How to make a family tree: rules, programs

Knowledge of a family tree gives its owner a solid advantage. This is a chance to tell the younger generation about their ancestors, to instill love and pride in their own family, to preserve the history of the achievements of relatives. In 90% of families, the custodians of information are the older generation, with the departure of which knowledge will be lost. A simple solution would be to compile a family tree. Significant assistance in this process will be provided to you by specialized programs that are presented on the Internet.

Where and how to find information for compiling a family tree

The amount of work that must be done to build a family tree can frighten a novice historian. We suggest using the available methods of obtaining information:

  • Interview the older generation. It is best to do this in person. Using a voice recorder or notepad, record the names, dates of birth, marital status and occupation of the ancestors. Grandparents will be happy to provide you with old photographs that will be used to create the tree.
  • Search in archives. Documents and photographs are stored in family or municipal archives. You should carefully consider the documents found so as not to make a mistake and not include the namesake in your personal archive.
  • Search for ancestors using the Internet. On modern resources, it is possible to find participants in the Second World War, as well as relatives who left a mark on history.
  • This is a painstaking and time-consuming step that requires patience and meticulous data collection.

For more information on how to collect information, see this article.

How a family tree should look like

Having collected information, a person often encounters a lack of understanding of how to systematize it. There are several of the simplest and most accessible options for compiling a family tree for a novice historian. Let's consider each of them in order to be able to choose the optimal solution:

  • From the side of the father. In this case, information about all relatives along the line of the pope is collected and systematized. In the middle of the left column is a photo and information about the customer. Then up are information about his ancestors (father, grandfather, great-grandfather) and down about children (grandchildren). Branches going to the right allow you to use information about cousins, uncles and other relatives.
  • From the mother's side. Compiled according to a similar principle.
  • Ascending family tree. In this case, a person who restores the history of his ancestors is placed at the base. It symbolizes the trunk. Large branches depart from it - these are the parents. Smaller branches are grandparents. And so on.
  • The descending family tree is exactly the opposite.

Having chosen the best option for the future scheme, you should proceed directly to its creation. For this purpose, you can use a sheet of drawing paper or resort to the help of specialized computer programs. Consider the products presented on the domestic market.

Overview of programs for compiling a family tree

Let's start with the fact that all programs can be divided into: It is possible to enter a huge amount of information on each person, scans of photographs and documents.

  • Free. Easy to use, accessible to the novice genealogist or hobbyist who wants to recreate their own history.
  • What programs do professionals recommend using? Paid products include: